Today, more than 780 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion do not have access to proper sanitation facilities. Most of these underprivileged live in rural areas. While there are considerable improvements in countries such as China, the overall global situation remains dire. Such low levels of access to safe drinking water in rural areas ultimately affects urban areas negatively due to pollution of water sources, higher healthcare costs and the impact on the food chain, among other factors.
It is commonly held that the water and sanitation needs in developing countries, especially in rural areas, can only be met by large investments in infrastructure by the public sector and large private utilities companies. However, the low population density and lack of funds cannot limit the reach of conventional centralized water treatment systems and networks. As a result, major technology, business models and funding model innovations will be needed to address this major water, environmental and social issue.
There has a been a major push by governments, aid organizations and multi-lateral institutions to provide water and sanitation services to rural communities in developing countries such as India, which contains the world’s largest population without access to clean water and basic sanitation.
While the intent of many such initiatives are commendable, the current models suffer from several limitations:
The Community Led Transformation for Water, Sanitation, Wastewater and Livelihoods was started by ECOSOFTT in India. The basic principles of the program are:
SILUA VILLAGE, CENTRAL INDIA
The project provided critical and sustainable access to water and sanitation for Silua Village. In tangible terms, the following were delivered:
The approach to water management and sanitation is also holistic and integrated, with management of "Source to Source" by sustainable extraction of water, and recharge of groundwater through treatment technology based on nature-based principles.
As demonstrated by the villagers in Silua, the integrated and sustainability-driven approach to Water, Sanitation, Wastewater and Livelihoods is the key to success in rural water management. It dispels the myth that rural communities are unwilling and unable to contribute financially for their water needs. Silua has become a model village and the villagers’ lives have been transformed, while there is now recognition from aid organizations, local and state government to scale up the model.
In addition to project funding, it is implementation capacity that will become the imperative to scale up this successful model across India and other developing countries. Given the massive needs, more participants from all sectors, including corporates, individuals, students and last-mile entrepreneurs will be needed in this movement.